US watchdog says no election bias in FBI probe into Clinton emails

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This combination of file photos created on February 3, 2018 shows a file photo taken on March 31, 2017 of former US Secretary of State Hillary Clinton during an awards ceremony for the Georgetown Institute for Women at Georgetown University in Washington, DC, and former FBI director James Comey during a hearing before the Senate Select Committee on Intelligence on Capitol Hill June 8, 2017 in Washington, DC. (AFP PHOTO / Brendan Smialowski)

The U.S. Department of Justice (DOJ) has publicly issued its long-awaited report on the FBI’s handling of an investigation into Hillary Clinton’s use of email during her time as secretary of state. The investigation was conducted during her run for president in 2016.

The Justice Department’s Inspector General said then-FBI director James Comey broke protocol, but did not do so with any political bias.

CGTN’s Roee Ruttenberg reports.

U.S. President Donald Trump has long maintained that the 2016 investigation into his then-rival, former U.S. Secretary of State Hillary Clinton’s use of a private email server, was rigged. Trump has often claimed that the FBI showed bias, in Clinton’s favor, in choosing not to press charges against the former First Lady. As candidate, Trump rallied his base by accusing Clinton of criminal activity. He often led or encouraged “lock her up” chants.

In July 2016, then-FBI director James Comey held a rare press conference. He said Clinton acted carelessly but did not break any laws based on the evidence he had seen. Then, just days before the November 2016 vote, he announced in a letter to Congress he was looking into new emails.

In this file photo taken on June 7, 2017 ousted FBI director James Comey is sworn in during a hearing before the Senate Select Committee on Intelligence on Capitol Hill in Washington, DC. (AFP PHOTO / Brendan Smialowski)

The Inspector General’s report on Thursday concludes that Comey made errors in not coordinating his probe with DOJ superiors. The 500-page report described him as “insubordinate.” It also slammed individual FBI officials for sending internal anti-Trump text messages. However, the report said, neither conclusions revealed overall bias in the bureau.

Comey, writing in the New York Times on Thursday said “…nothing in the inspector general’s report makes me think we did the wrong thing.” Even so, White House Press Secretary Sarah Sanders said “it reaffirmed the President’s suspicions about Comey’s conduct and the political bias amongst some of the members of the FBI.”

Trump fired Comey in May 2017. He did so just as an investigation into alleged Russian meddling in the elections was kicking off. The man who replaced Comey, current FBI Director Christopher Wray, defended his bureau on Thursday, but admitted there were problems. “I take this report very seriously,” Wray said, “and we accept its findings and recommendations.”

FBI Director is Christopher A. Wray speaks to the media during a news conference at FBI Headquarters, on June 14, 2018 in Washington, DC. (Mark Wilson/Getty Images/AFP)

The Trump administration has long argued that the Russia investigation, now led by Special Counsel Robert Mueller, is tainted. Namely, it involves some of the same people who worked under Comey.

Democrats say Comey’s mishandling actually helped Trump become president. “We Democrats said that then,” said Chuck Schumer, the Democratic Senate Minority leader, “the Inspector General makes it clear now, that director Comey’s mishandling of the publicity around the Clinton email campaign all accrued to the benefit of then-candidate Trump, not the other way around.”

A U.S. Senate committee will hold a hearing on Monday about the report. Comey’s then-deputy Andrew McCabe (who was also fired and faces possible criminal charges for allegedly lying to investigators) may testify. He’s asked for immunity.

The Trump administration has also floated the idea of criminal charges against Comey. In his tell-all book, the former FBI director said: there wasn’t a rule book for what he was doing, that he knew he was stepping outside of the norms. He denied any criminal wrong-doing.